In another thread “Deeg67” posted this heads up on October 19, “Had lunch at Crouching Tiger today, and apparently one of the chefs is from Little Sichuan in Fremont, which i know is well-regarded these parts. It's a nice spot - spotless and stylish interior, very courteous and attentive service. They have a pretty good sprinkling of Sichuan faves on the menu, plus some Hunan standards. I look forward to trying it a few more times to get a sampling of the more authentic menu items.”
A few days later, William joined me for dinner there. Crouching Tiger’s rear entrance on the parking lot is a few doors away from La Casita Chilanga. It occupies a relatively small space and is decorated in stylish contemporary fashion complete with flat screen TV. Water is served in cheesy 49ers logo beer glasses that are functional but completely out of character with the design of the dining room.
The vivacious owner waited on us. We learned that she’d closed her restaurant in San Carlos to move here. Her chef had worked for her before some years ago. The chef is indeed ex-Little Sichuan of San Mateo and Fremont, which gave us a clue about which dishes to order. Our top picks here turned out to be the ones that we’ve liked at Little Sichuan. We also asked the owner for her recs on the Sichuan side of the menu.
Pao cai and roasted peanuts are complimentary.
Spicy beef combination (fu qi fei pin), $6.95 – This was a strong start. Well-spiced with a heavy Little Sichuan level of burning heat and complexity. Especially liked the texture of the tripe, whereas the beef shank pieces were somewhat dried out. We told the owner that there should be more tripe and less beef, the ratio was off.
Hunan preserved pork, $8.95 – The cold version of this dish was recommended by the owner. We opted for the stir-fried preserved pork instead. The veggies didn’t pick up any wok char. The pork was fine, but too lean, as we were expecting a bacon-cut. Not as good as another version we’d tried recently that was smokier with better texture.
Dry cooked prawns house special, $11.95 - Highly recommended by the owner, who talked us out of ordering the chongqing chicken. Not as spicy as it looks. Shrimp had good texture, but the breading was too thick and undercooked/floury in spots. I’d rather have chicken on the bone.
Shredded potatoes stir-fried without chilis, house special, $7.50 – Excellent texture and knife-work on this classic, and the first time I’ve seen it served with chopped scallions. Unfortunately, what makes this potato dish work is the subtle flavoring imparted by a well-seasoned wok, and that was completely lacking here. We wondering if the chef didn’t have high enough BTUs or maybe his woks are too new still.
House special Sichuan cold noodles, $6.45 – Very good and especially welcome and refreshing on a warm night. Huge portion, and just like the version at Little Sichuan with a fresh lift from a touch of tartness in the finish.
Xinjiang lamb, $10.50 – Best dish of the night, more refined and less gamey than Little Sichuan’s, well-roasted dried chilis and fresh jalapeño slices, juicier meat. Decent sear, but again, needed a hotter flame under the wok. William commented that it wasn’t gritty like most versions from coarse ground cumin,
We’d ordered a stupid amount of food for two people, and this is what the table looked like AFTER we’d eaten our fill.
Hardly made a dent in these dishes and had lots to take home, but I’m glad we cast a wide net or we might have come up empty. This was a pretty good showing for a spot that’s only been open for a month. Like most of our favorite Chinese restaurants, the quality varies and satisfaction will depend on figuring out the strongest dishes. The weird thing is that we felt the two dishes the owner recommended were the weakest, so that wasn’t much help in navigating the menu. I look forward to revisiting in the months to come to see if the kitchen can get into a more consistent groove.
More Crouching Tiger photos -
2644 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063